TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Lightning can take a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time when they play Game 2 against the Montreal Canadiens at Amalie Arena on Wednesday.
The Lightning won 5-1 in Game 1 on Monday, their fourth straight home victory. They split the first two games in each of their three previous Stanley Cup Final appearances (2004, 2015, 2020).
“I don’t think we played our best game either,” Lightning forward Tyler Johnson said. “I think both teams are going to keep getting better as the series progresses. I think we have another gear as well, so that’s all we’re really focusing on.”
The Lightning will play without forward Alex Killorn, who sustained an undisclosed injury in Game 1. He was visibly in pain after blocking Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry‘s shot with his left leg at 13:32 of the second period. Killorn played three shifts after that, and was out the final 19:04 of the third period.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper did not announce who would take Killorn’s place in the lineup.
“Key part to our team, but it’s the playoffs, guys are in and out,” Cooper said. “You lose guys all the time. It’s part of it and for tonight we’re going to have to play without him.”
The Canadiens could have forward Joel Armia back in the lineup after he was replaced by forward Jake Evans in Game 1. Armia was placed on the NHL COVID-19 protocol list Sunday but was removed Monday and skated during warmups.
Montreal assistant coach Luke Richardson said Armia and Evans each will be a game-time decision.
Richardson said the Canadiens as a whole have to play their systems better in Game 2.
“Managing that puck, playing 200 feet, and our battle level and compete level just has to rise,” he said. “I’m sure it will. I think it has in every series. I know the guys are eager to get back and play a better game tonight. Those three things alone are going to give us a better chance in this game tonight and in this series.”
Teams that take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-7 Cup Final are 46-5 (.902) winning the series. Each of the past three Stanley Cup champions lost Game 1 before going on to win the series.
Here are 3 keys to Game 2:
1. Getting in Vasilevskiy’s face
The Canadiens have to take a page out of the Lightning’s playbook from Game 1 and control the puck so they can get bodies and pucks to the net to make things difficult for Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Vasilevskiy made 18 saves in Game 1. The only goal he allowed was a shot by Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot that went off two Lightning players before going into the net.
“We believe that when we play the way we need to play, we play our game, we dictate the style of hockey that it is, we can play with anyone,” Montreal forward Brendan Gallagher said. “I think we’ve shown that here through three rounds. Game 1 we got away from that. I don’t know if it was being in the Final for the first time we tried to do a little bit too much, but made it a little bit easy on them, fed into what they do well and they took advantage of it, played a good game. For us tonight it’s about getting back to our strengths and making sure we’re controlling the style of the game.”
2. Puck management against Point’s line
The Lightning’s top line of Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat took advantage of facing the Canadiens’ line of Tyler Toffoli, Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield in Game 1, scoring three goals when that line was on the ice and generating chances off turnovers.
Either the Canadiens have to figure out something different despite not having the last change advantage as the road team, or Toffoli, Suzuki and Caufield have to play better with and without the puck in Game 2 to stop the Lightning’s top line from having another big game.
“Puck management is key,” Suzuki said. “Had a few turnovers. Me personally, I had two. Just have to keep those down, be smart with the puck. I think once we get into the offensive zone we can outwork them there. It’s just going to be key. It looks like they want to play against us all the time, so we have to do a better job.
3. Replacing Killorn
Killorn is a big loss for the Lightning because he plays in all situations, including on the second line with forwards Anthony Cirelli and Steven Stamkos, on the top power-play unit and the penalty kill.
“He’s a depth veteran player you can depend on game in and game out,” Cooper said. “He’s the guy that probably the questions don’t get asked about him after the game whether he had three assists or he made 40 saves or he did whatever, but you look at the score sheet and he’s gobbled up 18 minutes, he’s got some blocked shots, he’s got some hits, he’s got this, he’s got that.”
Cirelli or Palat likely will take Killorn’s place on the power play. Forward Yanni Gourde could get more time on the penalty kill. Johnson could move up from the fourth line to replace Killorn on the second line.
Canadiens projected lineup
Artturi Lehkonen — Phillip Danault — Brendan Gallagher
Tyler Toffoli — Nick Suzuki — Cole Caufield
Paul Byron — Jesperi Kotkaniemi — Josh Anderson
Joel Armia — Eric Staal — Corey Perry
Ben Chiarot — Shea Weber
Joel Edmundson — Jeff Petry
Erik Gustafsson — Jon Merrill
Scratched: Jake Evans, Cale Fleury, Alexander Romanov, Lukas Vejdemo, Laurent Dauphin, Jesse Ylonen, Alex Belzile, Xavier Ouellet, Otto Leskinen, Michael Frolik, Brett Kulak, Tomas Tatar, Cayden Primeau, Charlie Lindgren, Michael McNiven
Lightning projected lineup
Ondrej Palat — Brayden Point — Nikita Kucherov
Tyler Johnson — Anthony Cirelli — Steven Stamkos
Barclay Goodrow — Yanni Gourde — Blake Coleman
Pat Maroon — Ross Colton — Mathieu Joseph
Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh — Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev — David Savard
Injured: Alex Killorn (undisclosed)
Evans played 11:55 in Game 1, the forward’s first game since he sustained a concussion in the third period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Second Round against the Winnipeg Jets on June 2. … If Joseph plays it will be his third game of the playoffs and first since May 20, when he played 9:42 against the Florida Panthers in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup First Round.